ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida judge has ruled the state cannot enforce its ban on mask mandates in public schools while an appeals court sorts out whether the ban is legal.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper lifted an automatic stay of his decision last week that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials exceeded their authority by imposing the blanket ban through executive order.
Cooper says the overwhelming evidence before him in a lawsuit by parents challenging the ban shows wearing masks does provide some protection for children in crowded school settings — particularly those under 12, who are not yet able to get vaccinated.
“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Cooper said during a remote hearing. “We have a variant that is more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year.”
The case next goes before the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.